There is a saying in Bangla that the past is always blissful. I know that the generation I have come to be slotted in would encourage many to say that there he goes again, old that he is; reminiscing is often misjudged as an old-person's preoccupation. For fear of this devastating classification, even at the age of 30, I desisted from uttering anything that had to do with the past. Nostalgia, also, is a word that is almost synonymous with old age. And in that age group it is assumed that some typicality is almost intrinsic.
Yet I was nostalgic at 10 of my fear in taking the leap to the haystack which my peers could easily manage at the age of six and got their share of claps and kudos even from my own elder brother. At fifteen, I missed the wonderful trips that I had made with our family to various places within and outside the country at a much earlier age. I avoided becoming nostalgic about my youthful pranks of 16 at the age of 20, so on and so forth. The dictate is so pervasive that I even refrained from humming the song so close to my heart…"those were the days my friend; I thought they'd never end…" But reminisce I did, by myself all alone and not talking about it with anyone. This, I suppose is something that is the sole dividing line between 'that youth' and 'this youth'. Forget the past! I'd still doubt if this psychological division between young and old is really so dominant amongst the youth of today in countries like ours. It does seem almost too intellectual a classification and, perhaps, precludes our social norms.
Attachment of our young people with their villages is a possible indicator. And I don't believe that the attachment stems out of sheer physical necessity of eating well, living free, being pampered etc. It goes beyond that. It is something more emotional than just the expedient necessities of life. I heard a young college-going woman say before the last Eid holidays that she was longing to go home (to the village) just to lie beside her grandma and do nothing. I asked her if she missed her village. “Like hell” she said. She said she missed her childhood, her errands, pursuing the butterflies, the smell of the coriander and the mustard flowers. She missed all these things. Well, I do not miss my village in the way that this girl does because I grew up in towns. But I miss my home of the childhood. I miss the days of my growing up. My family. My friends. Our little pranks and so on. If these can be tantamount to nostalgia then I don't see any generation gap. I think every generation in their own world have their own kind of nostalgia.
Now that the element of nostalgia is out of the way, may we take a closer look at what makes 'that youth' and 'this youth' merge together to become 'the youth'? Well, there are differences. These differences have more often been event-centric than intrinsic to human nature. These events have controlled our behaviour and belief system at various times. When I was 'really' young we had to fight a war to free our land of foreign occupation. The history preceding the war saw colossal political upheaval. And that upheaval was not exclusive to politicians. People from all walks of life participated in it whole - heartedly and spontaneously. The students were in the forefront of that political movement. This was regardless of party affiliation. I hope I don't need to elaborate on the reason why so many millions of people became involved in the war directly or indirectly. It has been said so many times before. Suffice it to say, 'that youth' responded to this call spontaneously. Now we have a nation of our own. Today the most invasive factor in our life perhaps has come to be known as globalisation. To use an almost clichéd expression, we are the citizens of a global village. Now, this globalisation process, though not formalised, has started us thinking about its possible impact on our lives. Until now our youth, in general, have been globalised to the extent of wearing jeans, sneakers and using a sprinkling of a word or two of English in their conversations. Mark me; I said “youth in general”. It is not focused on a few of 'us'. It is the vast majority of our youths that I am talking about. Though this is not the right place to talk about the more serious side of globalisation, it might be worthwhile to highlight the fact that globalisation in our society is essentially confused with westernisation, a process where we are always at the receiving end. This aspect has to reverse in order for us to be able to contribute to the process that this concept entails. Be it as it may, the world, in order to open its heart to each group of people, needs direct and spontaneous participation by all. 'This youth' will have to understand this implication of globalisation and start preparing themselves to be there when the world needs them. This is a huge responsibility that 'this youth' has to address. And 'that youth' will not be found sitting back and found ruminating when the need arises.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008